Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Even the police boss thinks a lot of his cops are goons

POLICE Commissioner Bob Atkinson has voiced concerns police may be getting too heavy-handed in dealings with people in southeast Queensland hot spots.

In a surprise admission by Queensland's top cop, Mr Atkinson said his concerns over use of force was one of the issues he wanted to address – after his contract was extended for three years. "I worry that in some of our places like the City and Valley and Surfers Paradise where (police) are regularly dealing with large numbers of people who are intoxicated and can be violent, some of our people are perhaps becoming a bit desensitised in terms of the way they handle people," he said.

"I do think we need to improve the way we engage with the public. We're not talking about large numbers but I think that's an important issue for us."

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said he had discussed the problem with the commissioner and had offered to work with the QPS to introduce strategies to assist officers. "It should be remembered, that these officers deal with an extremely high volume of offenders and are often out-numbered due to low levels of staffing," he said.

"It is clear that where physical and verbal conflict is common place, humans can become less aware of the impact of their own actions and police are only human in this regard."

Mr Atkinson said part of the problem was the increasing level of aggression towards police, generally by people using amphetamines. "The characteristics of amphetamines are they make people aggressive, angry, very alert and in some cases extraordinarily physically strong," he said. "We are seeing over and over again behaviour we believe, without question, is consistent with amphetamine use."

The Commissioner named ethical standards, slippage and "client service standards" as other areas of concern for him. He admitted allegations of serious corruption among some police on the Gold Coast had taken their toll on morale.

The three-year extension to his contract will make Mr Atkinson Queensland's second-longest serving police commissioner after D. T. Sandler in the 19th century. Mr Atkinson said he was confident he had the support of the vast majority of officers. "If I didn't think so, I would walk away immediately."

President of the Commissioned Police Officers Association, Detective Superintendent Tony Cross, said Mr Atkinson had led the service through some difficult times. "We're confident he'll do the same again," he said.


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